Governor Cuomo Announces Nearly $16 Million to Support Three Poverty Reduction Initiatives in Rochester

November 30, 2016

From the office of Governor Cuomo

Funding Will Support Monroe Community College Workforce Development Center, Mentors For Success Adult Mentoring Pilot Program and Expansion of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection Youth Mentoring Program

Investments Complement "Finger Lakes Forward" – Region’s Successful Upstate Revitalization Initiative Blueprint Aimed at Growing the Economy


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced nearly $16 million to support three Rochester-based projects aimed at reducing poverty in the Finger Lakes region -- Monroe Community College's new Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center at Eastman Business Park, the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative’s new "Mentors for Success" pilot program, and the long-standing Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection program.

These projects are the first three to receive funding through in the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council's "One Community Plan," which identifies priority projects that develop cradle-to-career workforce readiness initiatives. Poverty reduction is a core goal of the Finger Lakes Forward strategic plan, which supports multiple "Pathways to Prosperity" for all

"Poverty is one of the most complex and pervasive challenges of our time, and successful solutions must start at the local level and empower communities with the resources and tools they need," Governor Cuomo said. "These investments will help tear down the barriers that have trapped so many honest, hard-working New Yorkers in a cycle of poverty and create new pathways to help these families find prosperity."

Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center

Monroe Community College's Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center at Eastman Business Park – or FWD Center – will take a multi-faceted approach to creating a 21st century workforce by matching workers with high technology jobs in energy, biomaterials, functional films and photonics offered by companies at the Park. The FWD Center’s curriculum will include applied training in fields such as mechatronics, precision tooling, hydraulics, computer applications and will offer enhanced training in entrepreneurial skills, teaching students effective communication, teamwork and critical thinking. Over the next five years, it is expected to train more than 2,300 workers and add $90 million in economic benefits to the region in the form of worker salaries and increased supply chain value.

The first phase of the facility's development will be funded through $6 million in SUNY 2020 Awards, with the remaining phases being supported by $5.4 million in Upstate Revitalization Initiative grants through Empire State Development. Additionally the project will leverage the recently awarded $6 million grant through the federal America's Promise Initiative, and a private investment of $320,000 from JPMorgan Chase, to support student tuition and fees for qualified students and programs. More information is available here.

Mentors for Success

The two-year Mentors for Success pilot program was created by the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative to address its top initial priority of expanding adult mentoring services to those who want to achieve economic self-sufficiency, but currently find themselves below the poverty level. The program will be funded by $1.5 million in Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding, which will be matched by an additional $1.5 million in private funding.

The program will partner professional mentors with participants to identify their socio-economic needs and set goals and action plans. Staff members will also work closely with neighborhood associations, schools and agencies to recommend candidates to take part within each major Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative neighborhood. Participants earn cash incentives for reporting monthly progress and achieving the goals they set such as raising children’s grades, improving their credit score, increasing their education/job skills or building their savings. The Catholic Family Center will work in partnership with Action for a Better Community and the Community Place of Greater Rochester to work with an initial 300 families in the EMMA, Beechwood and Marketview Heights neighborhoods on the eastside of Rochester.

Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection

The Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection currently pairs about 700 Rochester-area high school students with mentoring services and part-time jobs each year. The program will receive $3 million dollars through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, which will be matched with another $3 million in private funding. The funds will be used to expand the program by a total of 500 students per year over the next two years on the east side of Rochester.

The Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection helps students enjoy lifelong success through a matrix of supportive services including individualized academic support, college preparation, and life and career skills development. These services are facilitated by professional Youth Advocates who partner with the student, their family and teachers to help each participant unlock their true potential. More information is available here.

The private funding being used to match the Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding for the Mentors for Success and Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection projects, as well as support other potential anti-poverty projects in the future, will be streamlined through a new Prosperity Fund. The Prosperity Fund will be administered by the United Way of Greater Rochester and was begun with considerable contributions from the Wegmans Family Foundation and the Sands Family Foundation.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, our continued investment in impactful services will ensure that an increased number of people in the region are able to participate in the ever-widening economic opportunities that are being offered as we move the Finger Lakes Forward."

FLREDC Co-Chair and Monroe Community College President Anne Kress said, "We are thankful for the investment from New York State and Governor Cuomo in the Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center. This public-private partnership will allow individuals to receive training in high-demand careers in our region. Such collaborations between area colleges and employers in the Finger Lakes close skill gaps and create a stronger regional economy by providing students with the expertise the need to get ahead, stay in our community, and support their families with a true living wage. MCC looks forward to creating this on-ramp to pathways to prosperity."

FLREDC Co-Chair and Wegmans Food Markets CEO Danny Wegman said, "Poverty reduction remains a top priority of the regional council. We are grateful to the Governor for his continued support for our efforts to truly help those facing hardship by helping them find a way forward. These combined endeavors serve to empower our whole community by funding comprehensive solutions. Together, we will continue to work to combat the unacceptable levels of poverty effecting families in our community."

Senator Joe Robach said, "In addition to funding for our economic development projects, I would like to applaud the Governor for his collaborative efforts to work with all parties to try to create more opportunities for people transitioning out of poverty. This is an important issue, and this holistic move will have a positive impact on our entire community moving forward."

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said, “Governor Cuomo has been and continues to be a champion for Upstate New York’s families. This funding will help Mentors for Success, the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection and the new Finger Lakes Workforce Development Center will provide new educational opportunities and help our citizens access in-demand jobs, uplifting our neighborhoods and community as a whole. Thanks to recent investment in Upstate New York, we are starting to see true and meaningful change, and for that I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for seeing the potential that cities like Rochester bring to improve the entire state’s economy.”

County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said, “Workforce development has been a hallmark of my administration. The ‘One Community Plan,’ which is spearheaded by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, will allow us to utilize private and public support to put our plan into action to lift families out of poverty through real job training and experience. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for moving the ‘One Community Plan’ forward.”

Catholic Family Center President and CEO Marlene Bessette said, "We need to prove what works in Rochester during this pilot so that we can make the case for scaling what will work throughout the region. The pilot is starting with mentoring models that have proven successful in other cities but will be adapted to local needs and community feedback. The other critical aspect of our approach is tightly integrated, cross-agency collaboration; first with our implementation partners, Action for a Better Community, Community Place of Greater Rochester and the Mayor’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives and then with a much broader set of providers, educators and employers. To be successful, we need to be on the forefront of collective impact."

Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection President Augustin Melendez said, "Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection has a 30-year history of helping youth lift themselves out of poverty by improving graduation rates and helping them prepare for success in college and their careers. This incentive award will allow hundreds more Rochester-area students to access the proven benefits of our program."

United Way of Greater Rochester President and CEO Fran Weisberg said, "This funding will support our community’s efforts to reduce poverty and help so many local people in need. It demonstrates Rochester’s commitment to working together to help more people become self-sufficient. As a community we participated in true collaboration to submit a successful application for the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, and now we’re able to bring these critical funds to Rochester help us begin to move the needle on poverty."

Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative Director Leonard Brock said,
"I am thrilled by the Governor’s support and commitment to Rochester. The state served as one of the initial catalysts that fueled our local efforts to reduce poverty and increase the number of families that are self-sufficient. To date, RMAPI has engaged more than 200 institutions and thousands of people throughout the region. This input has allowed us to focus our efforts on the priorities of local people most affected by poverty with adult mentoring and navigating top priority that emerged from our work. Helping families attain and retain livable wage employment is certainly one of the steps on the stairway out of poverty. We are excited to get started with implementation."

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward

Today's announcement complements "Finger Lakes Forward," the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $3.4 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.

Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available here.

About the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative

The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative was created in 2015 to work in partnership with Governor Cuomo's Rochester Anti-Poverty Task Force to develop new and innovative ways to reduce poverty. The Initiative has adopted a collective impact model that has since become the basis for the creation of the Empire State Poverty-Reduction Initiative in 2016 to bring the same community-based effort to all areas in need throughout the State. More information is available here.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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